Starting a Youth Ministry

Many parishes are looking for a "baby steps" approach to launching a youth ministry. This page provides five things that we recommend every parish consider as they wade into the youth ministry world.


Make a daily commitment in your prayer to discern how your youth ministry should develop. Anyone can get a “youth ministry” or “youth group” up and running. Building a youth ministry that is sustainable, solid and can weather changes in pastors, youth ministers and volunteers is much more challenging.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall! —Matthew 7: 24-27

Just like in Matthew’s Gospel, where he warns us to be wise and build our house on rock, hear the Lord’s voice upon your heart regarding how you should approach building His “youth ministry house” at your parish.


Write out a detailed plan of what your youth ministry will look like. No one builds a house without first having a blueprint of what the house will look like. Too often, parish youth groups or youth ministries are set in motion with a well-intentioned volunteer, a bulletin announcement and a plug during the Sunday Mass announcements. It runs for a few weeks, perhaps until summer time. But then the group breaks for the summer months and then it’s back to square one, trying to start something up all over again. For this reason, it’s important to plan what should take place over the course of the next few years.

The list we’ve provided may sound ambitious, but there are parishes that are accomplishing those goals right now. Those items are attainable.

Perhaps you’re thinking something smaller, where your youth receive consistent weekly catechetical formation while enjoying Catholic fellowship and growing firmly and confidently in their Catholic faith.

Regardless if our suggestions resonate with you or not, it is wise to have a longterm plan in place before you begin. What does the house that you want to prepare for your young people look like?

need ideas?

  • Participating as responsible and heart-felt lectors of the Word at Mass;
  • Serving as role model altar servers that can train younger servers;
  • Excelling at music ministry;
  • Being actively involved in mission work locally and perhaps abroad;
  • Helping as genuine leaders in sacramental preparation for Confession, Communion and Confirmation;
  • Leading faith formation and development for children’s liturgy, parish camps, and pre-teen youth;
  • Getting excited about life-advocacy initiatives and charitable activities such as elderly support events.

Where can I find a parish model of youth ministry to draw from?

Contact parishes with healthy youth ministries. Arrange a meeting with the pastor, associate pastor, youth minister, or pastoral assistant who oversees the ministry, or the volunteer who runs it. Get a sense of what they are doing, how they began and—most importantly— where they are going with it. Many parish youth ministries around the Archdiocese of Toronto were built with prayer, input, support, resources and even direct guidance from sister parishes.

Topics to pray about

While developing a vision for your parish’s youth ministry, these are some areas that you may wish to pray about:

  • PAID YOUTH MINISTER? Pray about whether the parish can afford a full-time youth minister. Other options include paying someone for part-time work, stipend payments, or recruiting a volunteer.
  • The OCY can assist you with determining existing trends in youth minister salaries and training volunteers for success in your parish.
  • BUDGET: Consider where and how money should be spent to accomplish your youth ministry plan. What can your parish afford to spend to start up the ministry?
  • RESOURCES: Brainstorm a list of resources you will need. Think about time and space that your parish offers where you can operate a youth ministry. Consider who you can approach in your congregation to pray and discern about joining a youth ministry team.
  • MENTORS and TRAINING: The OCY can help you by:
    • Giving you guidance based on experiences that have worked, so you can avoid making mistakes that others have already experienced;
    • Forming, training and supporting people who are willing to wade into youth ministry but feel ill-equipped or need guidance in how to work with the youth of the parish.
  • TIMELINE: Set aside 5 months to plan and launch your youth ministry program. The OCY can help by providing a suggested checklist of things to consider as your implement your new youth ministry.

About the Author, John MacMullen is the Associate Director of Youth Ministry at the OCY and can be reached at 416-599-7676